The first tattoos appeared from the 3rd century BC on the princess Ukok.
Tattooing has been practiced across the globe since at least Neolithic times. Some of the most extraordinary ones can be seen on the Princess of Ukok.
The mummy was identified as a young woman from the nomadic Pazyryk tribe (closely related to the Scythian peoples that once populated the Eurasian steppes sometime between the 7th and 3rd centuries B.C).
The remains of the immaculately dressed ‘princess’, aged around 25 and preserved for several millennia in the Siberian permafrost, a natural freezer, were discovered in 1993 by Novosibirsk scientist Natalia Polosmak during an archeological expedition.
Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, perhaps more likely a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman than an ice princess.
The mummy is covered in well-preserved tattoos on both shoulders all the way to the wrist.
“It is a phenomenal level of tattoo art. Incredible,’ said Natalia Polosmak, the lead archaeologist who discovered the mummy. One of the tattoos on the mummy’s left shoulder appears to be a mythological hybrid of a deer with a griffon’s beak and Capricorn antlers.
‘Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated, and the most beautiful,’ said Dr Polosmak.
More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps – but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks.